Ibn Fudayl

إنّ “رحلة ابن فضيل” كتاب من أدب الهجاء الساخر والتمييزي عن الآخر. تهجو هذه الرواية الصغيرة فيها المناقشات والحوارات التي تدور بين الأجنبي وابن البلد في العالم العربي والإسلامي وفي العالم أجمع. في هذه القطعة، مثلاً، تحدث محادثة في مصر بين سائق سيارة الأجرة والأجنبي حين يتلفظ أحدهما بلفظة “كلب” وما تعنيه باللغة العامية وترجمتها إلى الإنكليزية ومعناها العربي الأصلي والتسميات المختلفة لابن كلب وآل كليب وما شابه.

رواية جميلة تضيف إلى أدب الرحلات رونقاً فكاهياً وتفهماً للآخر.

كتبها جورج آر. سول ذو الشخصية الساخرة.

 

“The Travels of Ibn Fudayl” is a satire of academia and its discriminatory relationship to the other. The novella makes a mockery of many discussions taking place in the Muslim world and humanity in general. The following excerpt is taken from the glossary, an addition made by the purported author of this novella, George R. Sole, who is himself a caricature.

Kalb (pl. kilab) and kulayb (diminutive) – literally means dog. However, if it refers to Ibn Kalb, it means ‘son of a dog’ or sometimes it is translated, mistakenly in my opinion, as ‘son of a bitch’. Arguably, it shows frightful ignorance of the translator when he fails to realise that Arab tribes often have names such as Kilab, (dogs) or Asad (lion) to denote the warlike nature of their respective tribe. Thus, when the reader comes across the word Ibn Kalb he needs to read it in context. In the case of a man calling an Egyptian taxi driver ‘Ibn Kalb’ in Cairo, as the latter has fleeced him for eighty euros, this translator would recommend that it should be understood as ‘son of a bitch’.5 With regards to The Travels of Ibn Fudayl, it should be taken in the context of Arab tribal mores. 5 For further study see Al-‘Ilm al-Sadid fi Mufradat al-Kalb, The Accurate Science of the Synonyms of the Dog, Dr Rabie bin al-Kalb bin al-Kulayb bin al-Kilaab bin al-Jahsh, Oxford (2001). The author wrote this text as a clarification from the ignorant Arabic teachers at his faculty who, instead of recognising Arabic tribal mores, understood his name in the wrong way and smirked every time he walked past. But what motivated him was actually more than just slighted honour, as the author says in the Introduction: ‘I decided to write this book because one day, whilst teaching at the prestigious SOAS University, one of my students offered to cook me dinner in return for an increase in her marks. The delightful student, unlike those females in my country, did not know a thing about cooking and I sat on her rather messy bed and watched her xvi Annotated Glossary Jahsh (pl. juhush) literally means ‘son of a wild donkey’, a colt. Again, this can be taken literally, which depending on where you are could lead to fisticuffs. Or it could refer to tribal confederations in the Levant. The plural form juhush could also refer, as the ancient Arabic dictionaries have it, to ‘a small fat boy’. Ibn Fudayl may have had a predilection to small fat boys but certainly he does not intend it in this account. Himar (pl. hamir and hammar, masculine occupational noun). The etymology of this word is interesting for the translator. For it is proto-Semitic and pro-biotic in nature. The origin of the word can be found in Akkadian, Ugaritic, Aramaic, Urinic and indeed in the diuretic language groups. In essence, Himar captures that most stubborn of animals, the donkey. Himar can be used as a pouring in a can of Pedigree Chum. I was astounded. “It’s the best on the market,” she howled apologetically, adding the mixer with the meat. “My father says that Pedigree Chum is the most balanced dog food on the market. If it’s not to your liking, I promise you, Dr Rabie, I will also take you to Crufts. My father is a great breeder of dogs and has won many prizes there.” ‘I was astounded. Is this where our cultural misunderstandings lie? Mistranslations, poor little pretty student had taken my name completely out of context. Being a nubile materialist, she had put my name and ancestry down to evolution and so had assumed that I had undergone a thing evolutionists call “punctual equilibrium” that is – once my ancestors had stabilised as “donkeys”, that is jahsh, they evolved into dogs. I was stupefied. We understood each other so well physically and her grades subsequently improved, but yet culturally and intellectually there was a chasm between us. And so, I decided to write this text and dedicate it to such students who wished to cross boundaries through cultural intercourse. I would like to think that I, in some small way, have managed to reduce all the conflicts and tension between the East and West with this brief text.

George Richard Sole, The Travels of Ibn Fudayl, Darf Publishers, London 2017.

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